Building Out the Family Tree of John & James Larrison, 1600s Immigrants, Newtown, New York

Building out a family tree for the immigrant Larrison family is going to be a bit of a sticky wicket, as the saying goes. The header image for my own blog is an apt illustration, as there are several issues at play.

First, there was not one Larrison immigrant, but two men who were brothers, stated on 5 December 1661 when James Larrison sued Francis Doughty for payment of some pumpkins.

Minutes of the Town Courts of Newtown, 1656-1690, Page 24
Source: FamilySearch

Most of the research focus has been on descendants of John Larrison, or at least most descendants have been placed in John’s tree rather than James’s family tree.

Second, the European home of the Larrisons isn’t certain. John the Immigrant is often referred to as “John the Dane” with a fanciful story about how he escaped from Denmark with his life. However, in the almost 400 years since he arrived, not one bit of the tale has been proven true and several pieces of it have been proven to never have happened.

Instead, researchers have come to the conclusion that it is much more likely that the Larrison brothers were of Dutch origin.

Third, the Larrisons LOVED to use the same given names over and over and over to the point where it is impossible to sort them out.

Lastly, the Larrison family lived in two colonies without much in the way of vital records – New York and New Jersey – and then descendants made their way westward to settle once again in states with few early vital records.

One practice that helps name children of the early Larrisons is the writing of wills, so there is a very reliable starting base on which to build a family tree.

To begin, we have brothers John and James Larrison, who had settled in Middleburg, New York by December 1656, when their names appear on a list of freeholders of the town.

However, by February 1667, they had both removed to Newtown.

Town Minutes of Newtown, Page 19
Source: FamilySearch

Mary Larrison, wife of John Larrison (proved by his will a few years later) appeared in a 1662 court record, complaining about cookies being stolen.

Page 35

The family had a bit of a litigious streak, as John was in court in Middleburg in 1663 with a new complaint:

Page 37

A couple of months later, John Larrison sued James Larrison for £20 damages for defaming him!

Page 40

Further, on the bottom of the very same page, there is one John “Citcham” appearing during the same court session:

Page 40

This record proves a Larrison-Ketcham association at least as neighbors in the FAN club stretching back to the mid-17th century.

In 1664, James Larrison was back in court:

Page 44

John Larrison gave a deposition on 12 September 1665 in the Newtown court:

Page 51

In late 1664, James Larrison sued Henry Satle (sic) in Newtown Court for using his oxen for work. Several people gave statements and the court found in favor of James:

Pages 57-58

On the same page, but at the February 1665 court, John Larrison is again tangled in a complaint:

Page 58

Page 59

John Larrison was apparently well enough educated to offer teaching services. In 1666, he sued Frances Doughty for not paying 40 shillings for teaching his “girl.” Doughty claimed the agreed fee would be 20 shillings. John won his case.

Pages 68 & 69

In 1667, John Larrison was suing John Ramsden:

Page 74

James Larrison also made a 1667 appearance in the court records, suing over the cost of a shirt:

Pages 76-77

John Larrison closed out the 1667 court year with yet another appearance, this time being charged with trespassing, along with several other men. However, this court record is important, as the trespassers were ye two young Jhon Lauressons. Additionally, the yard of James Larrison is mentioned, so the brothers lived quite close to each other.

This is the first example of loving to use the same names. Both John and James Larrison had sons, apparently fairly close in age, named John. Both would have been under 21 in December 1666/67, so born no earlier than 1645.:

Pages 77-78

John Larrison, presumably the senior, was in court in December 1667 as a defendant (Note: court minutes are out of chronological order:

Page 199

During the same court session, one John Ketcham testified that his animal was hurt by one of John Larrison’s and he wished compensation. Here we have proof that the Larrison and Ketcham families knew each other at least a century before Elsee Larrison married Mr. Ketcham:

Pages 199-201

Notice that at the bottom of the page above, Francis Doughty withdrew a complaint of trespass against John and his wife!

The year of 1669 began as most of the other Larrison years seemed to begin. Both John Sr. and John Jr. were filing complaints in court:

Page 203, 206

Mary Larrison, wife of John, had to appear at the same court session. She may have been as hot tempered as the rest of her family! I’d love to know what she said to defame him, but I soon found out.

Page 206

Her husband wasn’t about to accept that:

Pages 210-212

In April 1669, James Larrison sued over a load of bad hay. John Larrison also testified:

Page 217

James attended the following court session in July 1669 to testify.

Page 227

John Larrison was at September 1669 court:

Pages 231-232

He even made it into the November 1669 court minutes with more complaints:

Pages 236-237

James Larrison was sued in February 1670 over Thomas Morrell’s wife’s diet!

Pages 249-250

George Wood also had a complaint filed against James:

Page 250

Not to be outdone, I guess, John Larrison was also mentioned in the minutes, but this is the last time his name is found before the proving of his will:

Page 251

James Larrison is in court for the May 1671 session:

Page 267

The whole family was squabbling in Newtown on 1 August 1671. James Larrison accused his brother John of “abusing” James’s son. The cause was a family brawl, as described in the minutes. In this same court record, Mary Larrison is involved in a complaint with Abram Frost.

Pages 83-86

However, the next page of the court minutes has this curious affadavit by James Larrison. Widow Mary Larrison is also mentioned. The issue at hand was the “Indentors” (indenture) of John Larrison, son of James.

Page 87

There is one page of minutes not in chronological order, as they are recorded on pages 180-181, but dated 1671, and are extremely important because they name the wife of James Larrison as LEAH:

Page 180-181

James was further involved in a tiff over cow ownership:

Page 182

Widow Mary Larrison was also in attendance at the same court session:

Page 184

John Larrison Sr. wrote his will on 5 December 1670 and an inventory of his estate was taken on 7 September 1671. John Larrison Sr. likely died during the summer of 1671.

Abstract from Access Genealogy
Liber 1:57, New York Surrogate Court

From this will, we know that John Larrison was survived by his wife, likely Mary in the court records, and two children, a son John and a daughter Abigail.

Mary apparently married (2) Captain Richard Ponten of Westchester and was deposed on 8 April 1689.  She stated that “her son John Lawrencson, was born at Newtown, Long Island in June of the year 1652.”

James Larrison was sued for debt by Josiah Farman in January 1676:

Page 187

Here is where another dilemma appears. We know James Larrison and his son, John, were both living in April 1671. It isn’t clear whether John Larrison Sr. was alive at this time, but his son, also named John, survived him.

Up until now, John Sr. and both younger Johns are called JOHN in court minutes. However, in June 1679, one Johanes Larrison, aged about 29 years, gives a deposition. The big question is WHICH John is it?

Page 112

He continued to be called Johanes:

Page 118

Page 140

Johanes Larrison was involved in a contentious lawsuit against him involving trespass and damages at October 1682 court and lost:

Pages 142-143

Yet another mystery appears on page 146 of the same court minutes:

Page 146

Here we have Johanis Loroson AND John Loroson. Is this one and the same man or are these the sons of John and James Larrison? The next page of minutes seems to indicate that they are one and the same man:

Pages 147-148

In 1684, Johanes Larrison entered a claims against the estate of John Rider and Mathias Barry:

Page 159

Pages 160-164

In February 1684/85, Johanis Larrison gave a deposition:

Pages 167-168

Although the court minutes don’t end in this volume until 1690, the last mention of the Larrison family is the above entry about Johanis Larrison in February 1684/1685.

On 18 September 1686, John Larrison appears immediately before Thomas Halsey on a list of inhabitants of Southampton, Suffolk, New York. He had apparently left Newtown for Southampton about 1685. This John Larrison married (1) Jemima Woodhull, widow of Daniel Halsey on 22 May 1683. She must have died soon and they had no known children. He married (2) Mary Howell, a widow, on 22 December 1686. John and Mary had one daughter, Mary.

This is an extremely lengthy post, but there is so much mis-information online about the early Larrisons, that it is necessary to put all the early court data together in one place.

Most online information states that Johanis Larrison was the son of John Larrison. It is clear, though, that both younger men named John Larrison were close in age and lived in the same community. Furthermore, James Larrison continues to appear in Newtown court minutes.

I don’t believe there is evidence one way or the other that conclusively shows which John Larrison became Johannes Larrison. This will take some more thinking!

From all of this data, though, the Larrison family tree can start to grow. No records indicating ages for the senior Larrisons have been found. However, as both of them had sons born no earlier than 1650, it seems quite safe to say that they probably were born in the early to mid-1620s.

1. James Larrison married Leah (MNU) and had a son named John, born no earlier than 1650, based on the court minutes talking about the two young John Larrisons.

2. John Larrison, who died probably in the summer of 1671, married Mary(MNU), who survived him. He had a son, John, born no earlier than 1650, and a daughter, Abigail.

Next, we will look at the second generation.














2 thoughts on “Building Out the Family Tree of John & James Larrison, 1600s Immigrants, Newtown, New York”

  1. Wow – that’s quite the detective work you’ve done! And how fortunate they were so litigious and that the records survived. Looking forward to the next part of the story…

    Also, I didn’t realize “cookies” is such an old word…Interestingly enough, when I checked the OED, it puts its first usage at 1754:

    “Etymology: probably < Dutch koekje /ˈkuːkjə/ diminutive of koek cake: this is apparently certain for U.S.; but for Scotland historical evidence has not been found.(Show Less)
    Chiefly Scottish and North American.

    1. In Scotland the usual name for a baker's plain bun; in U.S. usually a small flat sweet cake (a biscuit in U.K.), but locally a name for small cakes of various form with or without sweetening. Also South African and Canadian.

    1754 E. Burt Lett. N. Scotl. II. xxiv. 272 In the Low-Country the Cakes are called Cookies."

    "cookie, n.". OED Online. March 2020. Oxford University Press.; (accessed April 23, 2020).

    Merriam Webster has it at 1703:
    Time Traveler for cookie -The first known use of cookie was in 1703

    Yet clearly you have an earlier use of it. How cool is that? It's always interesting to see how long a word can be used before it actually makes it to a dictionary. We see examples of that all the time these days as well 🙂

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